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Patent of Marriage by Grace Craddock
Despite the fact that the best, brightest, and most ambitious came through the door every day the patent office was a sedate place to work.
Things were rarely loud; tea never had the opportunity to get cold and the paperwork was always done on time.
Today was threatening to be an exception.
Two women stood before Millicent’s desk.
One was small, mousy, and wore her dress like she had only just figured out how buttons worked. Beside her stood a goddess in human form. At least six foot tall her skin gleamed like steel. Smooth and reflecting the light.
‘Can I help?’ Millicent asked, holding her cooling cup of tea, and hoping that they might go away.
‘Yes, you can, miss!’ the mousy one said, smiling like a salesman. ‘I would like to submit for a patent! Behold! I have created a fully functional robot! She experiences emotions! She can even love.’ The last part was said like a showman’s secret.
Millicent looked over at the so-called robot, whose face was definitely experiencing an emotion. Mainly irritation.
‘Do not listen to her, I grew her in a lab. Thus, it is I that is in need of the patent. I have named her Eve after the fabled first woman. My own little joke.’
Millicent could feel her day becoming difficult. The robot woman picked up Eve by the collar of her dress and held her out to Millicent like a puppy for her to inspect. Eve’s feet dangled above the floor.
‘See her hands?’ the robot woman asked. ‘Webbed slightly, see? Just like our earlier ancestors.’
Millicent was unsure how to respond to that.
Eve giggled. ‘No human has this strength. No normal woman could hold me aloft with such ease.’
Millicent was even less sure how to respond to that.
‘Anyone can lift heavy things. It is your slight vestigial signs that will prove me right. All signs of being grown in a tank,’ the robot woman said with a gleam in her eye. ‘I will bare her stomach to you, and you will see she has no belly button!’
‘Please don’t,’ Millicent begged.
‘Ah ha! Another point in my favour! Only a robot, devoid of true human emotion and dignity would suggest such a scandalous thing!’ Eve said with glee.
‘Ladies, please, I need some proof, preferably paper, of your claims,’ Millicent said, almost hoping they would have no such thing and leave her be.
Two piles of paper slapped down before her. Two sets of plans and notes.
One set showed tanks and DNA strands. The corresponding notes all written in an almost too precise set of handwriting.
The other was a mess of wild scribbling and machine diagrams, some that looked suspiciously like internal organs made of steel.
Millicent reluctantly put her cup down and pulled the papers closer, peering at them in a way she knew must have looked frazzled. Maybe this was the universe punishing her for being too content in her work?
‘It’s all there,’ Eve promised. ‘Every part of the body, made with steel and cogs.’
The robot woman smirked, a professional proud to have someone viewing her work. ‘I think you’ll appreciate my solution to the breathing problem.’
Millicent was appreciating something, and that something was that yesterday she had been approving a machine that sliced bread, and now she was faced with this.
She steadied herself. Took a long sip of cold tea and began to read. The two women watched her with eager faces.
It was like they had both set out to rebuild a lover. Each component, regardless of handwriting, designed to be of high quality and never wear away. More adoration than experimentation. As if the maker loved every part and was worried about the day-to-day life of its creation.
In the top corner of each page explaining Eve’s creation was a date. Millicent squinted, something about them not sitting right with her.
Following a hunch now, she went looking in the scrawled mess of the robot sheets. She found her answers scattered about the pages. As if the writer had forgotten the dates and rushed back to add them in later.
They had rebuilt each other, Millicent realised. There had been some terrible accident. Some experiment gone horribly wrong and they had rebuilt each other. Bloody idiot scientists and their bloody age of experimentation.
She looked up at the pair. They had been waiting as patiently as they could. The robot woman still as a statue. Eve fiddling with one of the many knick knacks on Millicent’s desk.
‘Will you be using these for financial gain?’ Millicent asked.
Eve looked confused. ‘How?’
The robot sniffed, as if offended by the question. ‘Science is not for money. I just want it on record that she is my invention.’
Eve squeaked indignantly, climbing the robot to try and cover her mouth. ‘Me too! That’s what I want too!’
Millicent smiled. The romantic in her rearing its ugly head.
‘Fine.’ She stamped the two papers and handed them back. ‘They will be processed within five to ten business days. You will receive a certificate of proof in the mail.’
The pair looked like she had given them the sun.
‘Now, bugger off so I can reheat my tea.’
They buggered off.
A week later, when the final paperwork passed her desk, Millicent saw that both letters were headed to the same address.
She wished them luck and sent the letters, then redacted the luck, and wished them safety instead.
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Patent of Marriage by Grace Craddock <– You are here